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Google Alert – gardening
Patio-gardening ingenuity takes root from a corny idea
Container vegetables require at least six hours a day of direct sunlight to produce cobs
Aug 18, 2007 04:30 AM
Cristina da Silva
Special to the Star
Denis Allman has struck gold on his deck – corn gold, that is. Soaring seven feet on a small fourth-floor patio, the leafy giants produce full sized cobs, and have neighbours gasping in disbelief. When Allman couldn’t find sweet corn he liked in supermarkets, he started to grow his own. In pots.
“I like my corn a little more mature than the corn you get in the supermarket,” Allman explains. “So I started growing corn in containers as an experiment.”
Seven years later, Allman has perfected the art. “I like the challenge of growing corn and I like watching things grow. It’s amazing how fast they grow.”
Allman found that the bicoloured Aimers Organics sweet corn Double Play had all the right moves in the germination, maturation and flavour departments.
Corn seed usually needs soil temperatures above 18C to germinate, but Double Play can germinate in cool soil, which greatly extends the growing season. Double Play also matures in 80 days, a little later than the very early varieties (70 days) but much sooner than late-maturing varieties (100 days). Of course, Allman prefers harvesting the cobs 10 days later than the recommended date, for that special flavour and texture he likes.
Allman shares his secrets in growing container corn:
- Grow sweet corn on a sunny and wind-sheltered spot. Corn needs at least six hours of direct sunshine to produce cobs.
- Choose good potting soil. Allman uses Secret garden soil by Hillview Farms, which is a mix of garden soil and worm castings.
Germinate seeds outside in starter pots at the beginning of June. Germination takes about a week. Plant more seeds than you need in case some seeds don’t germinate. More seedlings means you can pick the strongest plants.
Once the seedlings are two inches tall, transplant them into large plastic containers (12 inches wide and 14 inches deep). Use two plants per container, spaced six inches apart. “The first couple of years, I had tiny corn because I planted too many plants in one pot.”
Each corn forms tassels (which produce pollen) and cornsilk (which forms the cob). For kernels to form, the wind must transport pollen from the tassel to the silk. For efficient pollination, place the containers in two short rows, rather than one long row. Allman keeps his 20 plants in two tight rows “You can assist with pollination by slightly shaking the corn tassels each morning,” says Allman.
Keep plants well watered. Sweet corn has a relatively shallow root system and needs an inch of water per week. Water is critical during silking, tasseling and ear development. Allman waters every day.
Fertilize every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer. Allman uses Miracle-Gro (15-30-15, two large measuring spoons in an 8-litre can).
Pot-grown corn doesn’t have as many pest and disease problems as their field-grown counterparts. Allman only had aphids one year, which he controlled with soapy water. “Rocky Raccoon and sometimes a squirrel looking for a tasty snack are the biggest problems, and they are not too bad,” Allman says.
“Sweet corn tastes better picked right off the stalk,” he insists.
The corn will be harvested before Labour Day, and Allman, his family and friends will enjoy the fruits of his labour.